Is Nonalcoholic Beer Safe During Pregnancy?

Pregnant women put their newborns at risk for birth defects if they drink alcohol during pregnancy. You may try to avoid the risk while pregnant by resorting to nonalcoholic beer, but even these beverages may contain small amounts of alcohol. You could still be endangering your baby if you try to replace alcoholic beverages with beer or other drinks labeled as "nonalcoholic," especially if you drink these beverages regularly. Check with your doctor for advice on drinking nonalcoholic beverages during pregnancy.

Pregnant woman having a drink in kitchen. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Greater Danger

The more a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, the greater the danger to her baby, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists points out. Drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy increases the risk of having a miscarriage or delivering a preterm baby. Alcohol abuse during pregnancy can lead to mental retardation. No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. So avoiding beer and wine, for instance, even those labeled as "nonalcoholic," provides you with a safeguard against potential problems with your growing baby.

Mistaken Belief

Because it is not clear how much alcohol can negatively affect a developing fetus, doctors often advise pregnant women or women planning on pregnancy to avoid alcohol. You may choose nonalcoholic beer, near beer or nonalcoholic wine with the mistaken belief you are keeping your baby safe. Nonalcoholic beer, however, may contain 0.5 percent alcohol by volume, according to Dr. Marra Francis at the Parents website. A pregnant woman who consumes nonalcoholic beer on a regular basis, or who drinks large amounts, may cause developing problems for the baby she is expecting or her newborn.

Higher Levels

You may think checking the ingredients of beers labeled "nonalcoholic" will help. But information on some products can mislead you, according to researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The study team analyzed 45 different beverages in the Canadian market labeled as nonalcoholic or containing no alcohol. Findings revealed that 13 of the beverages contained higher ethanol, or alcohol, levels than the claimed concentration on the label. Six beverages that boasted of no alcohol content actually included more than 1 percent ethanol. "Pregnant women seeking replacement to alcoholic beverages may be misled by these labels, unknowingly exposing themselves and their unborn babies to ethanol," the researchers concluded in the January 2010 issue of the "Canadian Journal of Clinical Pharmacology."

Blood Alcohol in Baby

Alcohol quickly reaches the fetus when a pregnant woman drinks it, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The alcohol becomes far more harmful to the fetus than to the adult. The baby's blood instantly contains the same amount of alcohol that's in the pregnant woman's blood because the baby's liver cannot yet break alcohol down. Instead of wondering how much alcohol may exist in your nonalcoholic beer, choosing to avoid it while pregnant or planning on pregnancy helps to calm your health concerns.

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